x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

World Cup opportunities play all over the pitch

Global perspective The football tournament is about more than the sport - it's an unparalleled moneymaking opportunity.

Are you headed to the World Cup? Need a South African flag? A parking spot for your car? An army of entrepreneurs, mostly local, are attending to visitors' needs in better ways than Cup organisers could have.
Are you headed to the World Cup? Need a South African flag? A parking spot for your car? An army of entrepreneurs, mostly local, are attending to visitors' needs in better ways than Cup organisers could have.

The scramble to make as much money as possible during the 2010 World Cup has begun. This is personal investment, South African style. "I won't lie to you, I have sold hundreds, I mean, hundreds of flags," says a beaming Suliaman Choonara, who owns a hole-in-the-wall grocery in the town of Sedgefield, along the country's picturesque Garden Route in the Southern Cape. The craze for bunting began late but now houses, cars and businesses are draped with the flags representing dozens of countries, from Mexico to France to Denmark. Especially popular is the South African flag, of course, known locally as "old Y-front", because of its passing resemblance to the men's undergarment. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Chinese manufacturers which side of the flag is up.

"The red side is supposed to be on top, but you can see a lot of flags have the blue, the bottom part, on top," says Mr Choonara. Still, nobody seems to mind and he sells as many as he can get his hands on for 40 rand (Dh19) apiece. With 25 per cent of the population officially unemployed, and many of the rest subsisting as casual labourers or hawkers, it is daily survival, rather than long-term investing, that takes priority for many people. Now the World Cup is expected to bring billions of dollars into the country, and ordinary South Africans who live a world away from the walled suburbs of the rich are going to make the most of it - if they can.

Mr Choonara, whose ancestors migrated to South Africa a century ago, recognises an opportunity when he sees one - and today, it's flags, flags, flags. He's even taken to handing them out to street people, who then sell them to passersby and pocket a small commission. "When they sell out, they come give me the money, and take more. We all win," he says. About 20km away, Goodman Mkhize is "helping" drivers park their cars. His job, so to speak, is to guide motorists - whether they want guidance or not - into a parking bay for a tip.